Preventing and Treating Three Types of Pneumonia in Childhood
By Christopher Jacoby
Pneumonia is often viewed as an illness of older people, unfortunately, it can also affect children of any age. For infants that are less than four months old, pneumonia usually involves hospitalization to allow for better treatments. These are three types of pneumonia that frequently affect children.
Viruses are the most likely cause of pneumonia in children under five years old. Viral pneumonia is accompanied with nasal congestion, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Small children may also have symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. On X-ray examination, physicians can see child’s lungs are slightly over-expanded. Most of viral pneumonia is related to influenza. Parainfluenza and adenovirus virus, which is the common culprits of colds in adults, often also cause pneumonia in kids. About a quarter of viral pneumonia in kids under two years old is because RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
Viral pneumonia in babies is always serious and often requires hospitalization. Oxygen support is often required and breathing is carefully monitored. Treatment is intended to provide support until babies can overcome the virus infection. If doctors diagnose that a bacterial infection causes congested lungs, antibiotics can be prescribed. A best way to minimize viral pneumonia effects is to make sure that your children are vaccinated every year against influenza and colds, although other types of virus may cause pneumonia in kids, the most common and the most serious are caused by the influenza virus. Regular shots often have a significant impact in reducing the child’s risk of getting viral pneumonia. Existing CDC guidelines urge that all infants between the ages of 6 and two years old to receive the flu vaccination. The CDC also recommends shots for all family members.
It is believed that ten percent of pneumoniatic children are infected by bacteria. Infants and children under five years old with underlying health problems like cystic fibrosis or asthma are at higher probability of developing bacterial pneumonia. Newborns under one month old will typically need to be hospitalized for better treatments. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae, a species that is related to the strep throat bacteria.
Bacterial pneumonia usually starts with coldlike symptoms, for example congestion, cough, earache, and fever. Within a day, the rate of breathing increases and skin shows a bluish tone. Toddlers may seem struggle with each breath indicated with grunting sounds and flaring nostrils. Bacterial pneumonia often lasts more than a week, but your child may feel lethargic and unable to go to school for a few weeks. Pulmonary function could be weakened for a couple of months, and your children will get tired more easily.
Earlier, pneumonia vaccines used for adults didn’t work well for kids. Now a newer “conjugate” vaccine, that uses dead bacteria can be extremely effective even for kids under two years old. It offers immunity against seven basic strains of pneumococcus which cause serious infections in children. Newborns are given four doses, repeated in 2, 4, 6, and 12 months, one dose each. Children over age five years old will generally not given the conjugate vaccines. Older kids who have other health problems may get two types of vaccines; one for children and the other for adults. Pneumococcal vaccine side effects are usually limited to slight redness on the injection site or fever. If your children have severe reactions after a shot, subsequent injections should be suspended. A vaccination could also be postponed if your children have moderate illness when a shot is due.
The type of antibiotics used depends on your child’s age and the type of bacteria. Infants under three months usually respond well to erythromycin. Amoxicilline is used for children between four months and four years, and between five to fifteen years, higher dose of erythromycin may also be quite effective.
Mycoplasma is smaller that bacteria but much larger than viruses. Although a bit obscure, they are actually a primary cause of pneumonia in those between five to fifteen years old. It’s also the only type of pneumonia that is highly contagious and may spread easily. The rate of transmission is slow, so it may spread for a couple months among hundreds of children in a school. Mycoplasma pneumonia at first appears like a normal cold, with symptoms of cough, sore throat, and fever. The symptoms are somewhat mild, but with a stethoscope, a doctor may hear chest noises that are louder than normal mild respiratory symptoms. If treated properly, mycoplasma pneumonia will remain for about two weeks. But treatment is frequently delayed the lack of understanding on the real problem. A child can have a cough and feel tired for a couple of weeks before it’s properly diagnosed. Common hygiene precautions may limit its spread, for example by regularly washing hands and covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
The macrolide antibiotics, for example erythromycin, have been shown to be effective against mycoplasma pneumonia. A one-week course of erythromycin is mostly the treatment of choice. However, mycoplasmas are resistant to cephalosporins and penicillin, because these germs lack the cell membranes that are attacked by these antibiotics. As a matter of fact, the first symptom that a doctor may notice mycoplasma pneumonia infection is the resistance to penicillin or Mefoxin. Tetracycline can also be prescribed for children above eight years old.